All posts by Mr Hari Covert

I am a passionate foodie, former chef and also ex hotel & restaurant inspector. I have been immersed in food for over forty years so its been a lifetimes work...

Covert Cook School… it’s back

When we launched “Covert Cook School” in the autumn of 2015 we were not sure what was the best format to pursue.

We feel now the best way forward is to structure the lessons to suit you. We are flexible on dates and the format the class will take… all we ask for is you choose the style of class you have that will then dictate the size of the class so the  number of friends or acquaintances you come with.

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If you want a one to one lesson that is fine – if you want it hands on then we ask for just two attendees. If you want just a demo class then four people is the ideal number.

We will then discuss the content of your lesson and tailor it to what you want to learn. It can be tricks of the trade or perhaps something more complex and involved.  Just remember the lesson will be bespoke to you.

To book your own Covert Cook School please complete the form below or go to the Covert Cook School dedicated page.

Fondue Fancy…

I bet you thought the headline said a “Fondant Fancy”… yep that little garish coloured cake – alas not…something far better in fact!

fondueFollowing from the success of our pop up last year in Tunbridge Wells we thought we would offer a repeat of a couple of themed cheese fondue nights in our secret home location.

It is a classic time of year to enjoy this Alpine classic of hot melted cheese with bread dipped in and we felt it was very worthy of another airing.

We will have two tables of 6 people on each night – you will have to share but what could be more convivial than such a feast.

We will kick it all off with a simple bowl of lambs lettuce salad (Nussli in Switzerland) topped with walnuts and chopped egg.

Then the main event will be the hot melted wine and cheese fondue with bread cubes – some little extras like chopped ginger (an innovation and tip given by a local Swiss resident)  or a  smoked chipotle paste will give it all another flavour dimension.

To finish it all we will then serve a light Orange & Polenta cake with a generous dollop of Greek yoghurt. A tangy  sweet finish after the excesses of the wine & cheese. We will provide a little glass of MuscatMuscat de Rivesaltes with this as well

Finally tea or coffee along with some Swiss Chocolate as a petit four will complete the meal.

It should be a convivial night and a great way to make new friends. Just remember it is important not to bring a red wine (it clots the cheese) or drink ice cold drinks (it will also clot the cheese) – a full etiquette on the whole procedure will be provided on the night.

Arrival: 7:30pm Welcome Drink & Nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm Prompt

Suggested Donation: £30 per person (service not included)

To Book please complete the form below and we will confirm your spaces normally within 24 to 48 hours.

Menu

Welcome Drink and Nibbles

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Nussli Salat Mimosa und Baumnussen

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Cheese Fondue with suitable accoutrements 

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Orange & Polenta Cake with Greek Yoghurt

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Tea or Coffee, Petit Fours

Menu subject to ingredient availability and market purchases 

Hawker House – Street Feast London

 

I had been made aware of Hawker House by fellow supper club operator Sprig of London who had recently attended the venue and was excited to know more about it.

Having just completed an outside event with “The Hands” Julia we got talking about taking our respective off spring up to London for the evening to see the Christmas lights and soak up some festive spirit.

I suggested a detour to take a look at this much talked about concept. Street Feast London – it is a street food concept that brings together a group of food retailers producing an eclectic mix of food under one roof. The parent company behind it all are London Union a partnership of Henry Dimbelby (of Leon Restaurants fame) and Jonathan Downey the initial instigator of the Street Feast concept.

Hawker House is an unassuming old warehouse located behind the Surrey Quays retail park close to Canada Water – it is marked by a fire brazier entrance area and an illuminated sign leading down to the security manned front doors that led you through some black curtains into a dimly lit walkway and opened into a buzzing cavernous warehouse.

Friendly cheerful hosts greet you and ask for your hand to then ink stamp you with the Hawker House logo and you enter into a wide open space filled with long trestle style tables and chairs in the middle and then round the edges of the space there are the assorted food vendors. The space is divided between two main areas and a staircase leads up to an area with assorted bar/drink vendors. It is a massive area and full of urban character with cleverly lit areas and  graffiti clad walls. I could best describe it all as grunge chic and the vibrant atmosphere makes it all rather special .

It is however the food on offer here that is the star… the assorted traders are rotated among their other sites and I found the first visit here is really not enough to sample the full delights on offer and had to go back the following week as there were others I wanted to sample.

Highlights for me were Meat Hook – wood fired grilled beef topped with a fiery chimichurra sauce,  a Chuck Burger freshly grilled burger knocks your average burger into the sidelines but for me the Yum Bun stall was one I kept going back to. The Smokestak was another concept that had me gravitating towards it… I am drooling just thinking about them again. White Men Can’t Jerk and Mother Clucker to name just another two of the traders could tempt you!

The food offer is what for me was so exciting – the place might be a bit trendy for the local hipsters and drinkers it is however the food that made me want to make the 60 mile round trip again the following week!

In fact when it all reopens at the end of this month I will be dreaming up an excuse to go again ! If you want to sample some amazing street food then I can thoroughly recommend it all. The excesses of the festive period will be forgotten by the time it all starts up again!

 

Sausage Fest…

After all those excess of Christmas and New Year we thought what better way to kick the new year off than with a more simple and frugal supper event.

We felt we would kick the evening off with a warm glass of mulled Perry to warm the cockles on what we suspect a cold night! For the starter we would then serve up a selection of cold salamis and salads served with our freshly made & warm beer bread.

We will then serve a classic “Choucroute” (Pickled Cabbage flavoured with Juniper Berries) and also some classic Swiss Dorrbohnen (the dried green beans we often use as a salad) along with assorted styles of sausages including a “Krackauer Schinkenwurst we have especially imported from Germany all served with simple boiled potatoes and a selection of mustard’s!

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To complete the meal we will serve a warm chocolate bread & butter pudding with some crème fraiche and a glass of Muscat Tuile (a sweet red wine from the south of France)

We have also thought the frugality will be matched by the suggested donation price of just £25 per person – what we are calling our January giveaway!

A great way to start the year and partake in some great winter comfort food!

To Book please complete the form below and we will confirm your spaces normally within 24 to 48 hours.

Menu

Welcome glass of Mulled Perry & Nibbles

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Cold Salami Platter, Salad & Bread

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Choucroute & Dorrbohnen, Wurst mit Salz Kartofflen

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Warm Chocolate & Cardamom Bread & Butter Pudding

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Coffee  or Tea & Petit Fours

Menu subject to market purchases and ingredient availability

Suggested Donation : £25.00 per person (service not included)

Arrival:  7:30pm

Dinner: 8:00pm Prompt

2016 Dates…

Happy New Year…

chocs

We have had a hectic festive period and are now recovering from a 1200 mile trip to Switzerland between Xmas and New Year to visit friends and stock up on Mrs HC’s chocolate supplies.

We have now just released some of the dates and themes for our 2016 events.

Do take a look here.

We will be revealing more details soon but our first event at the end of January will be what we have named a sausage fest – we will be serving up cured salamis and for the main course a classic Choucroute with smoked sausages. Menu just in the final stages of tweaking.

February will be the return of a couple of Fondue nights and then we will have yet to be confirmed dates a return visit of Chef But and we will also be taking Hari Covert to foreign shores with a pop up planned in Switzerland at some stage during 2016.

We will be doing a charity alfresco theme in July that will take “Underground Dining” to new heights.

So there will be plenty to keep us busy during the coming year. We hope you will also come and join us.

Please keep watching this space for all the latest news…

“Thank You so much”….

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Well what a week that was! It had been a few years since we had done a Vegetarian themed dinner and we could not have done a more ambitious one this time without the help of fellow chef Peter Pickering and his Vegan & Vegetarian inspired Sprig of London Pop Up concept.

Peter a graduate from Oxford Brookes University has had a stellar culinary career working with some great chefs as well as some tough assignments. He really put his heart and soul into this series of dinners and road tested his recipes beforehand and also spent a fair few hours in their preparation!

It was a real pleasure to have Peter and the comments we had from those attending were very rewarding. We had “Vegetarians” and “Meat Eaters” – all seem to be tucking in to a diverse range of dishes and what was more fascinating was the the fact that certain dishes really did provoke a reaction.

Peter’s Sprig of London concept is planning to open a series of pop ups in London early in 2016 and his visit to Hari’s was a great way to trial some of his ideas.

The dish titled “Turnip, Radish & Orange” was for me a revelation of cooking and curing processes along with some great flavour combinations.

The main component of turnip was a whole roasted turnip that was baked in tin foil with just a little bit of oil for some two hours, peeled and then thickly sliced. It was then fried in vegan margarine and finished with a drizzle of maple syrup to help caramelise and colour it.

The resultant texture was soft and unctuous and as one guest remarked like a succulent ripe peach. The bitterness of the vegetable softened but married well with the orange juice reduction with the salty soy and the the addition of pickled sliced radish and a turnip and orange puree bought it all together. It was a truly masterful dish!

The dish that seemed to raise most discussion however was the second dessert, namely the “White Chocolate Coconut Porridge”. Here he firstly toasted some white chocolate (baked broken up pieces in a hot oven till they started to caramelise) He added this to toasted desiccated coconut and nibbed almonds to create what could be described as a crumble mix.

A tin of coconut milk was reduced and then thickened to make a cream. Coconut Water was then used to make a porridge in the normal way and lightly sweetened. When then the Coconut Cream, Porridge and Crumble was layered in the serving bowls it made for a real rich and luscious eating experience but did split the diners. It was a real “Marmite” dish, some thought it was more breakfast than pud and those that do not like the coconut flavour were equally vocal.

There were some converts but overall I think it was a hit… I certainly liked it, it was a great way to complete the dinner.

I had tried to showcase some great local produce from the local Cobnuts from Hurstwood Farm and their cobnut oil that was then combined with the dried green beans I had specially obtained from Switzerland making this a truly international combination.

The “Sweet Rebellion” Vanilla Ice Cream from Taywell also was a hit and proved that great tasting food can be without certain ingredients.

We felt we had provided a series of dinners that was imaginative and thought provoking and Peter with his Sprig concept illustrated well his talents!

As you can see the guest book signed by the diners illustrates well what our guests though of it all! Thank You so much for all your lovely comments….

 

Why a Vegetarian dinner…

When I set up Hari Covert nearly six years ago my plan was to do a new theme every month that I hosted an event. We have pretty well done this and also not had to repeat a menu in that time – we have however repeated or tweaked a dish or two over the years…

We will always try and cater for a vegetarian or those with allergies with our menus when requested. We have also served a complete Vegetarian menu successfully in the past. Our dinners in association with Moodleys Beers where we matched the menu with the range of beers Yudhistra was producing a case in example.

PPSprig is the brainchild of chef Peter Pickering who is keen to put his somewhat stellar CV of quality establishments to use in a new and innovative way where he is also in control of the hours he works.

This time we were approached by his new Vegetarian Supper Club “Sprig of London” who wanted to trial their concept whilst they still look for possible London venues to host their supper club dinners.

We have together put a joint menu that reflects both of our culinary styles and influences. I myself will be doing some of our favourite combinations from our beer bread to porridge oat biscuits that we serve with cheese.

Sprig of London
Sprig of London

The dishes Peter will prepare will be everything from a Brik – the crispy north African pastry with wild mushroom lemon and rosemary through to a combination titled intriguingly Turnip, Radish and Orange. Finally the Sprig of London dessert offer will be Porridge, White Chocolate & Almond Milk. They all sound different and I look forward to seeing the finished dishes and taste them as well.

white logo (500)We are doing these dinners over four nights from Wednesday 18th November and we still have spaces on most nights so please do go and take a look at the full menu and booking form with this link

It will be a fun few nights with some interesting foods and we hope you will realise the absence of meat and in many cases gluten whilst a challenge for chefs is not one that is not to be missed as the food will be tasty and imaginative.

We do hope you can make one of these nights!

Waste… and just lazy behaviour?

waste1The recent BBC programme “Hugh’s War on Waste” with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall that aired recently highlighting the problems of food waste was a fascinating look into how we have become.

I recognised so many traits of people I know that will buy excessive food and then have to throw it out or they will only buy perfectly formed produce because they have become so conditioned. Do not get me started on Organic and the such like!

I always remember once going through my mothers store cupboard and finding jars of jam, tins of food etc that were years out of date. She was of the “war rationing” generation that horded food and just hated waste. We have cultural differences as well – we see people in our French village going out each day buying the produce and food they need for that day.

I have had a chef training and I feel I am pretty good at ensuring I use every bit of produce I buy and I like to also think I am pretty canny with my purchasing and try to buy what is in season. Local is good but can for me also be limiting… e.g. I love a Barbary Duck Breast so will purchase when I am in France and import or source an Asian ingredient I require when a local cannot be substituted.

Hugh’s programme highlighted the public’s so called desire for perfect fruit and veg with tonnes of parsnips being rejected by supermarkets as they were marked with small blemishes or were the wrong sizes! Madness and irresponsible for all parties involved. Intermarche the French supermarket chain actually have a cheaper section of Fruit and Veg that are seconds or misshapen. It requires the public to demand their produce is not sanitized to the extent it currently is.

What is worse is this “Best Before Date” people now think if it is gone beyond this it is dangerous and should be thrown. I was also equally annoyed by the way people stored their opened produce in the fridge in the same packets and unwrapped – open to cross contamination and spoiling.

I get through copious quantities of large commercial rolls of cling lidl sealerfilm quite quickly as I am constantly wrapping and storing using this or my £25 Lidl purchase of a small vacuum machine with rolls of
plastic bags as an invaluable piece of kit for me as I freeze or wrap gluts in bags till they get used.

For me it is all in the planning, rotation and knowing what is in your fridge, freezers and storage cupboards so that it gets used. It is simple kitchen management and what annoys me most is when someone takes something from the fridge and then puts it back unwrapped (if already wrapped and not in the same place it was taken from) It might sound like a case of OCD but for me it is about sound management. Ask any good professional chef and he would agree.

The public needs to up its game on many fronts and our supermarkets need to change its policies with regards to what it sees as acceptable standards.

Rant over… any comments are welcome.

Christmas is coming…

photo (144)Well it is that time of year again when we will be celebrating the festive time at Hari Covert’s. It only seems like yesterday we started doing our secret suppers… This coming February we will enter our sixth year of operation!

We love the festive period and we hope we will see you at one of our events…

This years menu will encompass some of our favourites. To kick the meal off we will serve a selection of festive nibbles including a warming seasonal soup! The first course will be a smoked salmon rillettes a coarse like pate that we will serve with a delicate yoghurt santa1and dill sauce and some toasts.

The main course will be a Turkey & Chicken Saute with spicy Chorizo & Peppers that we will serve on a bed of steamed Cous Cous with green beans. A bit different to the traditional roast!

For the dessert we will then serve a Mincemeat & Crumble Tart with a Cinnamon Cream and to then complete the meal we will serve a selection of assorted cheeses with our porridge oat biscuits and a snifter of local “Anno” Sloe Ginsnow2

Dates: Friday 18th & Saturday 19th December

Arrival: 7:30pm – Welcome Drink & Seasonal Nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm

Suggested Donation: £35.00 per person (service not included)

Menu

Smoked Salmon Rillettes, Yoghurt & Dill Sauce, Toasts

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Saute of Turkey, Chicken, Chorizo & Peppers

Steamed Cous Cous & Green Beans

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Mincemeat & Crumble Tart with a Cinnamon Cream

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Hari’s selection of Cheeses,

Porridge Oat Biscuits, Snifter of Anno Sloe Gin

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Coffee or Tea, Petit Fours

To book your places please complete the form below and we will contact you within 24 to 48 hours to confirm the booking.

Parental Control…

I was with Mrs HC in my local cinema the other night and we were eating in a Pizza restaurant before going to see the latest Bond picture.

kids2Now it was our first visit to the said restaurant part of a small independent chain and we did not know what to expect. It was fairly early evening and on arrival there were quite a few children eating with their parents.

We sat down on our allotted table with a mother and two young hyperactive  girls located on an adjacent table. In fact when we inspected the room there were possibly 90% of the tables with one or more adults and a plethora of children (well it was the half term holiday)

The menu was a classic pizzeria style menu in the Pizza Express mould. There was also a  fairly hefty children’s section that was well thought out and exciting for our little ones and all reasonably priced.

However it was the lack of parental control by certain Yummy Mummy’s that galled me most. Children misbehaving and running round the place is dangerous as drinks are carried to the tables along with hot food, one group of boys played up and down the staircase and lift to this first floor restaurant. All this time the parents just sat there and ignored them. One mother just seemed to be bored and playing on her phone!

kids1One more elderly lady (a granny perhaps) was sitting with two young children who were impeccably behaved through out, and a young girl on the next table to us with a school friend when they left the table to go to the toilet did rather boisterously run down the stairs and their Mother turned to us and remarked “when will they learn”!

Perhaps you might think me a grumpy old fart  for making such comments but if you delve deeper into the restaurant scene and what the public expect and how they behave in our eating establishments then you would understand my dismay.

There was recently a very well crafted article in the Guardian when critic Jay Rayner commented about children’s menus. I could not agree more with him… we are culturally backward when it comes to eating out with children. What is more children should be taught how to behave in a restaurant what ever its style or purpose from a very early age.

I have very fond memories of eating in a Michelin starred restaurant in France when a primary school class of 4 & 5 year olds were bought into the restaurant and sat down to try some foie gras, snails, caviar, Steak tartare and high quality chocolate to educate their taste buds and palates.

Our meal was good and the film was very impressive it was however the lack of parental control of their young ones that had a  great deal to answer for. One can live in hope…